THE ENGLISH WESTERNERS' SOCIETY

 

APRIL 2016 BOOK REVIEW

This review first appeared in the Tally Sheet (Spring 2015, Volume 61, Number 2)

 

RUBE BURROW, King Of Outlaws, And His Band Of Train Robbers: An Accurate And Faithful History Of Their Exploits And Adventures

By George W. Agee. Lightning Source UK Ltd, 2014. Illustrations. 194pp. Paperbound. £14.94.

This is a reprint of the volume originally published in 1890 by The Henberry Company of Chicago, just months after Burrow’s death in October. George Agee was superintendent of the Western Division of the Southern Express Company and, according to Ramon Adams, “gives a fairly accurate account of Burrow’s life and activities.” Agee’s book was joined in 1890 by other authors producing their version of the outlaw.

His first chapter gives an outline of Burrow’s ancestors, followed by one on his early life in Texas, including his first train robbery, that of one near Bellevue, Texas, on the Fort Worth and Denver Railway in December 1886. Agee gives the date as December 1, though the robbery actually occurred on the 11, suggesting a printer’s error. This was followed in a matter of weeks by another train robbery near Gordon, Texas, and then the Burrow’s gang went quiet until early June, appearing at Benbrook, Texas. Their fourth robbery occurred six months later in a new state at Genoa, Arkansas. In early January 1888 the Pinkertons were put on the case but towards the end of the month Rube was captured by Police Captain J. W. Martin. Burrow, however, escaped and was picking cotton in the October of that year.

In December they again moved to another state, robbing a train at Duck Hill, Mississippi, and a passenger was killed. Possibly due to the furor aroused by this killing, Burrow next made his presence felt at Jewell, Alabama when in June 1889 Moses Graves, a postmaster, was killed. Then it was back to Mississippi and train robbing, this time in September at Buckatunna Creek, Mississippi. In July of the following year, Leonard Calvert Brock, a member of the gang since its early days, was captured and made a lengthy confession about the gang’s activities. Burrow didn’t last much longer, robbing a train near Flomaton, Alabama in September but being captured in October, escaping and eventually killed.

All these events stretched over just four years and across four states. Like Jesse James, Burrow would have been aged in his mid-thirties when he died. This book is a must for anybody interested in Reuben Houston Burrow or the outlaws of the Deep South. The last major unpublished work by the late Jeff Burton also covered Burrow and this reviewer looks forward, hopefully, to its early addition to the books on the outlaw. 

Robert J. Wybrow

 

 

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